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What they are, and how we help

What is an epidemic?

An epidemic is the unusual increase in the number of cases of an exisitng or new infectious disease in a certain region or population.

Epidemics can often be the result of other disasters, such as floods or earthquakes. They may also attack animals, causing local economic disasters.

What are different types of epidemics?

  • Cholera - an infectious disease that causes severe watery diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration and death if untreated. It is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with a bacteria.
  • Malaria - is a life-threatening disease. It’s typically transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito.
  • Ebola Virus - a deadly disease that spreads via direct contact with bodily fluids of a person who is sick with the virus.
  • HIV/AIDS – a virus that damages the cells in your immune system and weakens your ability to fight everyday infections and disease. AIDS can't be transmitted from one person to another, but the HIV virus can. Here's how you can stop transmission.
  • Yellow Fever - a tropical virus that is transmitted by mosquitoes. It affects the liver and kidneys, causing fever and jaundice and can be fatal. 

How do Save the Children respond to Epidemics?

Child health
Provide frontline healthcare as well as re-establishing/setting up primary health care facilities. We will also distribute essential supplies to health facilities, such as gloves, IV fluids, soaps, buckets rehydration treatments, drugs and antibiotics.

Water, sanitation and hygiene 
Provide water, sanitation and hygiene to help stop the spread of disease by making sure people are able to keep themselves clean, this could be through the distribution of hygiene kits. We ensure health workers have sufficient protection from exposure. We also raise awareness in communities of how people can protect themselves and prevent further spread.

Child Protection
Make sure unaccompanied, separated and orphaned children are cared for, and help them reunite with their families, as well as supporting children to cope with the distress they’ve experienced.

Ebola Crisis 2014-2020

Children listen to advice and information about Ebola, as well as take part in activities at an awareness activity hosted by Save the Children in Beni, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Children listen to advice and information about Ebola, as well as take part in activities at an awareness activity hosted by Save the Children in Beni, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo.

In 2014, the Ebola epidemic spread through West Africa at terrifying speed. At its height, five people were being infected every hour in Sierra Leone, and the number of cases was doubling every three weeks.

Fragile health systems were at breaking point, and shortages of protective clothing left health workers vulnerable to infection and many died. The outbreak was one of the most challenging contexts Save the Children's teams had ever faced. To deal with the Ebola crisis effectively, we had to help build health infrastructure and information systems from scratch – something that would normally take years.

The DRC's largest Ebola outbreak and the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history began when four cases were confirmed in the eastern region of Kivu in August 2018.

Save the Children worked with the Congolese government and the World Health Organization and its partners on the ground to stop the spread of the outbreak and to support existing health facilities. 

Our responses included:

  • Constructing and staffing Ebola treatment units and centres, community care centres and mobile clinics, as well stocking health facilities with medical supplies and equipment.
  • Running community sessions to raise awareness of the disease, how it spreads, and how families can protect themselves, which was key to bringing the epidemic under control.
  • Training volunteers to monitor and trace people who had been exposed to the virus meant that we could isolate and treat people as soon as they became infected.
Together with Save the Children’s DRC country team, the Emergency Health Unit trained more than 1,200 health workers and almost 1,000 community leaders, and reached more than 1 million people with information.

Beyond our health response we also provided families with:

  • Practical help: Many children lost everything to Ebola, including their parents. We were able to help safeguard these children’s futures. We reunited children with extended family members and got children back into school.
  • Physical help: Children who had lost parents or older siblings to Ebola had also lost the regular money those family members brought into the home. We provided these children with nutritious food and household items like mattresses and clothing.
  • Emotional: Surviving Ebola or losing a family member to the disease was hugely traumatic and was often made worse by being stigmatised by scared neighbours. We helped protect children by providing psychosocial support, in interim care centres and at home and educating communities to reduce the stigma.

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